by Prof Alemayehu G. Mariam
These perpetual little panics of the French – which all arise from fear of the moment when they will really have to learn the truth – give one a much better idea of the Reign of Terror. We think of this as the reign of people who inspire terror; on the contrary, it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists mostly of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.”
Karl Marx in a letter to Friedrich Engles during the Paris Commune (1870).
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…You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police … yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature of the human mind… Dictatorship- the fetish of worship of one man- is a passing phase. A state of society where men may not speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, where a businessman or small shop ruins his competitor by telling tales about his private opinions; such a state cannot long endure if brought in contact with the healthy outside world…
Winston Churchill, October 17, 1938; Broadcast to America. (It could have been broadcast to Ethiopia today!)
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In my commentary last week, I sought to provide an explanation on what the T-TPLF wants and do now that it has declared a “state of emergency” for itself. (Ethiopians have been under a T-TPLF state of emergency for the last 25 years! Ho-hum!)
In this commentary, I explore what “WE” want and DO now.
Aaah! But only if I knew who “WE” are.
To be perfectly honest, I do not know who “WE” are. Who are “WE”?!
I know only one thing about who “WE” are. “WE” are they who want to see the end of the scourge of the T-TPLF in Ethiopia.
Beyond that, I do not know who “WE” are. How ironic that I should ask a simple question about what “WE” want and do now.
The pronoun “WE” has many connotations and denotations in the context of Ethiopian politics.
“WE” are Oromos, Amharas, Tigreans, Gurages, Anuaks…
“WE” are Christians, Muslims.
“WE” are the “nations, nationalities and peoples”.
“WE” are the Diaspora.
“WE” are the young and old; the men and women; the rich and poor…
How I long for Michael Jackson who taught us, “We are the world”:
We are the world./ There comes a time when we heed a certain call/When the world must come together as one/ There are people dying/And it’s time to lend a hand to life/The greatest gift of all…/ Let’s realize that a change can only come/ When we stand together as one.
Yes! When “WE” stand together as one! As Ethiopians.
If only someone could teach us, our people are dying; we must come together as one; and that lasting change can come only when we stand together as one and sing out, “WE are Ethiopia”. If “WE” could only heed that certain call.
Just the fantasy of a utopian Ethiopian.
Is there a reason why I am insisting that “WE” must know who “WE” are before we can talk about what we want and do?
I am afraid most of us would rather avoid the “WE” question. To paraphrase Marx, the “perpetual little panic of Ethiopians arises from fear of the moment when “WE” learn (face) the truth about who “WE” are.
But I will excuse myself for having raised an academic or abstract question.
For the last 25 years, “WE” have been defined, re-defined, identified and misidentified by the T-TPLF.
The T-TPLF has tagged and bagged us into ethnic identities and corralled us like cattle into kililis (Bantustan homelands) to facilitate its tyrannical rule and predatory exploitation.
“WE” have been, to paraphrase Malcom X, took, hoodwinked, bamboozled and led astray by the T-TPLF.
“WE” have been so “took” that we have accepted the T-TPLF ethnic classifications and kilils as immutable historical facts and irrefutable political realities.
“WE” have lost the most elementary awareness that “WE” are not who the T-TPLF says “WE” are.
“WE” have lost the most elementary awareness that it is a crime against humanity to reduce a person to an ethnic identity. I have never met a person who chose his/her racial, ethnic or gender identity. I do not know anyone who chose to be an Oromo, Amhara, Tigres… These are accidents of birth and circumstances.
But the T-TPLF insists that every Ethiopian must be tagged and bagged as a member of an ethnic group.
In Ethiopia, the T-TPLF officially requires, under penalty of “law”, that every citizen declare his/her ethnicity on the official identification card. It is illegal to report “Ethiopian” as an identity!
I wonder how many people have actually taken the time to carefully study and scrutinize the official identity card issued by the T-TPLF to every Ethiopian. It is much worse than the dreaded and infamous “Passbook” of apartheid South Africa. (See discussion below.)
So, the reality is that “WE” are who the T-TPLF says “WE” are.
“WE” are the people who live in 9 T-TPLF created Bantustans called “kilils” in a territory known as “Ethiopia”.
In much the same way as the European colonial masters carved out boundaries in Africa and the white minority apartheid regime carved out Bantustans in South Africa, the T-TPLF has carved out ethno-linguistic boundaries in Ethiopia.
Like the colonial masters who declared African countries (empires or kingdoms) did not exist before their colonial rule, the T-TPLF also says Ethiopia is a political invention barely one hundred years old. The T-TPLF says there is no such thing as “Ethiopian people” because Ethiopia is itself a geographical fiction, merely a juridical (legal) abstraction. There are “nations, nationalities and peoples” in the fictional country of Ethiopia, but no such thing as “Ethiopia”. (See my May 2016 commentary, “Does Ethiopia Need a Constitution?”)
But “THEY” know who “THEY” are!
Everyday, “THEY” tell us who “THEY” are and how great “THEY” are.
“THEY” are the bold, fearless and heroic fighters who defeated the mighty Derg army and seized power.
“THEY” are the ones who taunt us every day, “Fight your way to power just like we did. Otherwise, go to hell.” (No, thanks. “WE” are already in hell under T-TPLF rule.)
“THEY” are the most intelligent, shrewd, clever, skillful, resourceful and slickest dudes on the African continent. “THEY” are born to rule, for a thousand years.
Only “THEY” know what no one else knows.
“THEY” know who “THEY” are because “WE” do not know who “WE” are. That is the sad truth!
The power of “WE”
There is no word in the human language that is more powerful than “WE”.
The greatest and most powerful country in recorded human history was established by a constitution which began with the word “We”. “We, the people of the United States…” (“We the people” now have a choice of electing a certified sexual predator, a dirty old man, as President of the United States. The surest sign of the decline and fall of the U.S.A? See my commentary last week, “Donald (“The Octopus”) Trump: Sexual-Predator (Groper) -in-Chief?”)
Barack Obama was hearkening to the creation of the American Republic when he declared at the Democratic National Convention in 2004: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.”
That is who “We, the people of the United States” are.
In Xhosa culture (South Africa) the word “Ubuntu” means “I am because we are”.
Nelson Mandela rendered the concept of Ubuntu in terms of “community empowerment” and whether “you are going to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve”. It simply means, “We can do it!”
Archbishop Tutu defined “Ubuntu” as an expression of “My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours. We belong in a bundle of life.” It simply means we are one in our humanity.
If “WE” think and act as “WE”, then we will have our Ubuntu moment.
WE” will begin to experience the joy of one is the joy of all. The sorrow of one is the sorrow of all. The pain and suffering of one is the pain and suffering of all. When the blood of our Oromo, Amhara, Anuak, Ogadeni… is shed, “WE” feel as though our blood is shed. To paraphrase John Donne, “WE” begin to believe that every man and woman is a piece of Ethiopia,/ a part of the main. If a clod be washed by the sea, Ethiopia is the less.” That is the power of “WE”.
In 1963, Martin Luther King in his “I have a dream” speech showed us the power of “WE” when he expressed his boundless hope and faith in the future:
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
His last words were, “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The word “We” reveals itself to me in the ten fingers of the hand.
There are five fingers on each hand. As long as the five fingers on each hand are stretched separately from each other, they are pretty ineffective to the point of being useless.
But if the ten fingers are pulled together in a clenched fist, they become a formidable weapon of good or evil.
Five fingers grappling a pencil, a paint brush or tapping a keyboard produce great art, science, literature and music.
If ten fingers are clasped and make a fist, they store extraordinary kinetic energy.
But if a single finger is lifted from each hand, a lot of the power in the fist is lost.
If a second finger is lifted, all of the power in the fist is gone.
Ethiopia today is a country of 9 separate fingers (kilils). Weak. Fragile. Anemic. Ineffective.
The word “WE” also signifies community spirit to me. That is comm-unity (a group of people living together and working for a common purpose). It is about You-nity (you and I working in unity for a common purpose). It is about huminity (unity in our humanity) and national unity (as in “WE” are building a nation of diverse communities).
Ultimately, the word “WE” means “WE” are inextricably bound together in bonds of freedom, dignity, justice, equality and “WE” stand as ONE against tyranny, corruption and abuse of power.
I often ask myself this one question: How is it that Ethiopia is the only country in Africa (arguably with the exception of Liberia) that not only remained independent for millennia but actually decisively defeated a major European colonial power not once but twice?
“WE” — Oromos, Amharas, Tigreans, Gurages… — came together and made a formidable fist and knocked out flat the Italian colonial aggressor.
The historical lesson is simple and manifest: What is good for the Italian aggressor is good for the T-TPLF!
So, what do “WE” do we want and do now?
Go back to square 1?!
I. Understand the true nature of the struggle against the T-TPLF
The struggle in Ethiopia is against a black apartheid regime. Period!
I have argued and demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt (without any counter arguments) that the T-TPLF is merely a gentler and kinder version of white minority apartheid regime in Ethiopia. (See e.g., my May 2016 commentary, The “Law” as State Terrorism in Apartheid Ethiopia” and my April 2016 commentary, “The Bantustanization (kililistanization) of Ethiopia).
The T-TPLF has used its kilil system to create 9 homelands (and extensive land grabs) in Ethiopia that are virtual replications of apartheid’s Bantustans. The T-TPLF has used its so-called anti-terrorism law (and its “state of emergency decree”) in virtually the same way as the South African apartheid regime has used its anti-terrorism laws and state of emergency decrees.
I am convinced that unless “WE” understand, analyze and act as an anti-apartheid movement and struggle, the T-TPLF will hang around for some time to come. “WE” must then develop and apply the most effective techniques used in defeating apartheid.
“WE” could learn a lot from South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and apply the most effective techniques used in that struggle. In apartheid South Africa, activists, leaderless youth movements and grassroots organizations built a loose network of associations “”leaderless movement”) capable of future transformation into an inclusive multi-ethnic organizational form to lead a national democratic struggle.
The central aim of the broad-based anti-apartheid struggle was to make South Africa ungovernable by the apartheid regime.
Specifically, the grassroots groups and the African National Congress and other organizations loosely cooperated to make apartheid institutions unworkable and concentrated their efforts on the most vulnerable links of the apartheid regime.
They completely rejected the Bantustanization of South Africa. They rejected and struggled against the apartheid collaborators and administration. They pressured the “black stooges” of the apartheid regime to choose between the people and their apartheid masters. They boycotted apartheid businesses. When the apartheid regime proposed “reforms”, they demanded a non-racial democratic government to govern the people. They demanded the immediate release of political prisoners. They mobilized and coordinating actions by students, industrial and domestic workers, women, clerics and others in the community to engage in various nonviolent resistance actions. They understood that the apartheid regime could stand and thrive ONLY because it got the support of the U.S., the U.K., France and then West Germany. The U.S. adopted the so-called “constructive engagement with the apartheid regime rather than exerting sanctions and other pressure.
On the other hand, Diaspora South Africans and their friends developed a system of international support and pressure that produced a distinct effect on the apartheid regime. They mobilized for punitive sanctions and implemented a successful divestment campaign unplugging the capital lifeline to the apartheid regime. By increasing the pressure on the apartheid regime from within and without, they made it clear the days of apartheid in South Africa were numbered.
The apartheid regime fought tooth and nail to cling to power. It passed a state of emergency decrees which formalized a police state where they criminalized the freedoms of expression, access to information, association, peaceful demonstrations and all other personal, political freedoms and human rights. By trying to control and dictate every aspect of life for Black South Africans, the apartheid regime believed it could ensure white supremacy and white minority rule forever. But the protracted nonviolent grassroots struggle combined with the worldwide divestment campaign and sanctions regime finally broke the apartheid camel’s back. In the end, apartheid leaders had to choose between peaceful transition to democracy (a governable society) or total economic, political and social implosion possibly culminating in a race war.
I see some strong historical parallels to South Africa in what is happening in Ethiopia today. We have observed an accelerated trend in making Ethiopia ungovernable by the T-TPLF. The spontaneous uprisings throughout Ethiopia mostly led by a leaderless youth movement is taking deep root. The people have taken the fight directly to the T-TPLF. They have engaged in a variety of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience actions to confront and pressure the T-TPLF. They have engaged in boycotts and taken a variety of economic actions including not patronizing T-TPLF-related businesses. They have demonstrated that the T-TPLF and its cronies will neither enjoy their stolen loot or govern until they respect the human rights of the people.
The T-TPLF declared a state of emergency to prevent this movement from transforming into a nationwide organization. The T-TPLF has outlawed all personal freedoms. The T-TPLF is promising all sorts of reforms to “expand our democracy”. (By the way, the “LF” in TPLF stands for Lie Factory.)
In the end, the T-TPLF apartheid regime will have the same fate as its historical South African “twin”. (See my commentary, “The “End of the Story” for the T-TPLF in Ethiopia.”)
“WE” must continue the struggle against the T-TPLF as an anti-apartheid struggle.
II. Change the way “WE” think and relate to each other
Real change and progress can come to Ethiopia only when there is change in thinking and attitude of the Ethiopian people and their political, social, intellectual, spiritual and community leaders.
George Bernard Shaw wisely observed, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
What I see all around (including myself) is a whole lot of folks who want to change Ethiopia without changing themselves.
“WE” are frozen in outdated and outmoded thinking and stuck in tribal mentality. “WE” seethe in ethnic and sectarian bigotry.
“WE” relate to each other on a tribal basis. “WE” articulate tribal grievances and tribal ambitions.
I know more than a few people whose thinking has been frozen since the 1970s. Listening to some of them talk is like taking a stroll down the memory lane of our youth; it is the equivalent of experiencing a virtual time travel into the past.
“WE” have let our thinking fossilize and “WE” refuse to change our minds even in the face of overwhelming evidence and facts contrary to our opinions. “WE” do not acknowledge that we have shut close our minds.
“WE” stubbornly hold to ideas and opinions that have long been discredited or are proven wrong.
“WE” feel it is shame to admit being wrong and stubbornly cling to opinions and beliefs we know to be wrong. (I was recently amazed to watch a youtube video entitled, “The First Man to Apologize in Ethiopia.”) It takes a lot of strength and willpower to either admit to being wrong or allowing progress to occur with a change of mind or a change of heart.
My view is that one must change one’s mind as the facts and evidence dictate. It is a fact that “WE” live in a globalized world where geographic boundaries have become almost meaningless and a significant percentage of (young) people have instant access to information and ideas and can link to each other instantaneously through social media.
There is no place for tribal thinking in an ever globalizing world.
I believe “ethnicity” and “tribalism” are outdated ideologies kept alive by those whose sole ambition is to build a power base so that they can personally benefit.
Ethnicity and tribalism are nothing more than power games played by those who have seized power and their opponents who want to dislodge them and seize power for themselves until they are themselves dislodged setting an endless cycle of conflict and strife.
That has been the T-TPLF “ethnic/tribal federalism” zero-sum game in Ethiopia for the past 25 years.
The essence and foundation of T-TPLF rule in Ethiopia is tribalism. To be fair, it is not only the T-TPLF that is fastened to tribal mentality. “WE” confirm and validate the T-TPLF’s tribal mentality every time “WE” speak the T-TPLF’s language of tribalism and play their zero-sum game of ethnic politics.
I believe “WE” must not only reject but also transcend the tribal mentality the T-TPLF has imposed upon us and sought to indoctrinate us with for the past 25 years.
“WE” must unplug ourselves from tribal thought forms. “WE” must transform our tribal minds into rational (national) minds.
I find the fierce resistance to openly examine our tribal mentality to be “one of the perpetual little panics” of Ethiopians, the fear of finding out that tribe and ethnicity are nothing but a power game of divide and rule for those in power and the war cry of those out of power to get into power.
My belief and reasoned opinion is that the salience of tribal and ethnic identity is rapidly declining as young people worldwide opt to take national, regional and even universal identities. I think that is the inexorable march of human history.
As I interact with young people at the university level (admittedly an “elite” group and not representative of the vast majority of youth) and examine studies on the impact of study social media and networking on youth globally, I wonder if Francis Fukuyama’s controversial proposition about the end of history or the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” may not be true. What was the yearning of the young Egyptians, Tunisians in the Arab Spring? What were the young people in Tiananmen Square hungering and thirsting?
My unshakeable belief in the march of history from bondage and serfdom to freedom and emancipation is rooted in the paramount values of individual liberty and human rights and the rule of law.
I believe that if human beings are free to think without fear, communicate without fear and if their minds and spirits are free from fear, they would more likely than not do the right things consistent with the principles of fairness and act and order their lives in a manner that enhances the lives of others. In other words, they would follow the Golden Rule. (Not to be misunderstood with the T-TPLF’s golden rule. Those who own the gold from Lega Dembi and Adola rule!)
The politics of ethnicity and tribalism need to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
There is a major lesson Ethiopians can learn from Americans on the question of ethnicity and tribe (race).
Everyone knows America is a land of immigrants. People from every corner of the earth, of all races and ethnicities make up the American nation.
Americans of all stripes may identify themselves by referring to their ethnicity, but the vast majority of Americans put their nationality before their ethnicity.
For instance, I believe United States Army Captain Humayun Khan did just that. Captain Khan was a Pakistani-American, a Muslim and born in the United Arab Emirates and came to the U.S. when he was 2 years old. Nasty Don Trump tried to humiliate Captain Khan’s parents. (Quick question: Is Trump a jackass by choice or was he born that way?) Anyway, Captain Khan was inspecting a guard post in Iraq when a suspicious taxicab began approaching quickly. He ordered his soldiers to take cover and ran toward the vehicle and was killed when the bomb in the cab exploded. He saved not only the lives of his soldiers at the post but also hundreds of others in a nearby mess hall.
Captain Khan did not see himself as a Punjabi, a Muslim or Pakistani. He saw himself as an American. I have a dream one day that Ethiopians will not think of themselves as Oromo, Amhara, Tigre… Christian, Muslim… but as Ethiopians and then as members of whatever group they wish.
Obama is right when he said, “There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.”
“WE” must escape from the tribal mental and physical (kilil) prisons in which the T-TPLF has confined us.
My escape plan from T-TPLF kilil prison is simple: “WE” need to invest in “New Political Thinking” for the “New (post-T-TPLF) Ethiopia”.
The “New Thinking” must build on a common national identity (and abandon ethnic/ tribal identity). It must aim for the establishment of a national community based on the rule of law and interdependence and interconnectedness. It must inspire the creation of a new and creative national constitutional process (while scrapping the T-TPLF constitution into the dustbin of history) which ensures that no one group could dominate the political process and necessitate a multiparty system and coalition-building to form a functional government (even at the risk of gridlock). It must chart the course that will ensure the safeguarding of basic human and political rights and guarantee an independent judiciary. The New Thinking must help devise a system of clear division of powers between the national and sub-national governments (not some bogus game of “ethnic federalism”) and guarantee economic freedom and secure property rights of individuals.
There is a hard lesson to be learned from a post-apartheid South African governments which seized power without new thinking.
Few doubt South Africa today is in a hot mess. The democratic transition in 1994 anticipated only the transfer of power, not implementation of new ideas and thinking for a new South Africa.
President Jacob Zuma has faced numerous corruption charges since the late 1990s. Two months ago, a South African court ruled Zuma as sitting president should face corruption charges. South African Finance Minister under Zuma Pravin Gordhan is also facing corruption charges. (Quick question: How corrupt is the African national Congress? Answer: How corrupt is the T-TPLF?)
If present trends continue, South Africa will implode in less than a half-dozen years because the country and particularly the ruling ANC lacks new thinking.
Julius Malema (and his generation), the former expelled African National Congress Youth League president and leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] (revolutionary socialist party) may be the one coming with the “new thinking” for South Africa in the next few years.
Malema formed his EFF in 2013; and the EFF is today the third-largest party in both houses of the South African parliament!!!
Malema’s and EFF’s “new thinking” are based on three pillars: 1) expropriation of land for redistribution among the masses; 2) nationalization of mines and banks for the benefit of the people, and 3) free education and health care for all.
Malem a is not just thinking outside the box; he is thinking about breaking the whole damn box.
“WE” need new thinking that is not only outside the ethnic, tribal and religious box, but also one that accommodates these old boxes in a larger national constitutional box.
But to get to the new thinking, I say “WE” must all sing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”: Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery (of tribalism and ethnicity);/ None but ourselves can free our minds…/
III. “WE” are not struggling for ourselves but our children
Most of my readers know that I am one hundred percent in the corner of Ethiopia’s youth.
My regular readers are familiar with my commentaries on the Cheetah Generation and what “WE” must do to help them achieve their greatest potentials while avoiding the mistakes ‘WE” have committed.
I believe the struggle is for the future of Ethiopia’s youth. I believe the youth are the future of Ethiopia for the very same reasons Nelson Mandela believed in the South Africa’s youth .
In a 1996 speech, Mandela said:
I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation, perhaps because I also became involved in struggle whilst I was still at school. With such youth we can be sure that the ideals we celebrate today will never be extinguished. Young people care capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.
In South Africa the youth played a pivotal role in our liberation. They braved bullets with stones. Some sacrificed their youth and dedicated their entire life to the struggle. Now they are harnessing their own energies and creativity as fighters for reconstruction and development. They are nurturing the skills and talents which will make them the leaders of tomorrow and the producers of our nation’s wealth.
It is such youth, and youth such as yourselves, that will shoulder the destiny of mankind into the next century.
I am boundlessly optimistic about the future of Ethiopia because I believe they will shoulder the destiny of Ethiopia into the next century.
The naysayers and doomsday seers say Ethiopia’s youth have too many problems to provide hope of redemption for Ethiopia. They say Ethiopia’s youth are largely jobless, skillless, ambitionless, directionless, faithless, feckless, careless and hopeless.
I have even heard some Ethiopian Hippos (older generation) say the youth are only interested in making a fast birr (buck) and not concerned about their people or country.
I give no credibility to such cynical and defeatist talk.
There is great hope for the future in Ethiopia’s youth. Who is doing the heavy lifting, the dying and going to jail in the current massive country-wide uprising? Who is leading the nonviolent struggle in Ethiopia today? What have Ethiopian Hippos done for Ethiopia lately (or at any time for that matter)? I rest my case!
But I am very hopeful for other reasons.
Over 70 percent of the Ethiopian population is under the age of 35. I am very encouraged that this population in the main does not carry or care much about the tribal and ethnic luggage “WE” lug around. This population will in the foreseeable future transcend the regressive burdens of tribal mentality and affirm its allegiance to the broader national community and humanity at large. I am most encouraged by the fact that the youth are more concerned with bad governance, lack of opportunity and denial of human rights than pointless issues of tribe and ethnicity. I believe the leaderless youth movement and youth activism in general will continue to be widespread and decentralized and coalesce in grassroots nonviolent resistance.
But I also see a grave danger looming on the horizon.
There is a youth bulge in Ethiopia; a demographic ticking bomb waiting to go off. As events in North Africa [the Arab Spring] have shown, lack of employment and educational opportunities have created an easy recruitment environment for terrorists.
As my long time readers know, for years I have been complaining about the fact that T-TPLF is squandering Ethiopia’s greatest treasures, its youth.
The facts of life for Ethiopia’s youth are disheartening. The T-TPLF has been a total failure on youth issues.
According to a 2011 report of the African Population and Health Research Center, “Ethiopia is one of the countries with the lowest primary school enrollment rates in the world… [L]ow quality of school and a high dropout rate, as well as gender and rural-urban disparities remain the major challenges of the country” Those who manage to finish high school have vastly diminished opportunities for higher education or gainful employment.
According to a 2012 USAID study, “Ethiopia has one of the highest urban youth unemployment rates at 50 percent and there is a high rate of youth underemployment in rural areas, where nearly 85 percent of the population resides.”
According to a 2012 study of youth unemployment by the International Growth Center reported that the “current 5 year [Ethiopian] development plan 2010/11-2014/5, the [ruling regime’s] Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), does not directly address the issue of youth unemployment…” That study found “in 2011, 38 percent of youth were employed in the informal sector” which “often provides low quality, low paying jobs.”
There is a substantial segment of the youth population that is not only unemployed but also unemployable because they lack basic skills. Youth access to public sector jobs requiring training and skills depends not so much on merit or competition but political and social connections and party membership. Every young person in Ethiopia knows that a card verifying membership in the ruling party is more important than an honestly earned university diploma. Moreover, rural youth landlessness has contributed significantly to the chaotic and ever increasing pattern of youth urban migration, joblessness and hopelessness.
The risks faced by Ethiopia’s youth cover the gamut of social maladies.
According to a 2010 T-TPLF report, there are 150,000 children living on the streets, some 60,000 of them in the capital. The average age at which children first find themselves homeless is between the age of 10 and 11 years. Health risks for youth from HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase. Large numbers of young people who lack opportunities are involved in drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution and other criminal activities. Without job or educational opportunities in the urban areas, large numbers of youth are rendered jobless, homeless, helpless and hopeless.
In 2004, the T-TPLF issued its “National Youth Policy” and in its assessment reported that “44% of the population is below the absolute poverty line. Under this situation of poverty, the youth is the hardest hit segment of society… The fact that the majority of the unemployed youth constitute females indicates the magnitude to which young women are the main victims of the problem.” The policy directs that the “Government shall have the responsibility to direct, coordinate, integrate and build the capacity for the implementation of this policy.”
Yet, as a 2012 International Growth Center study showed, the “current 5 year [Ethiopian] development plan 2010/11-2014/5, the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), does not directly address the issue of youth unemployment.” Taken as a whole, the so-called National Youth Policy was nothing more than a blueprint for T-TPLF youth recruitment and window dressing for the international poverty pimps.
A 2014 report documents how rural Ethiopian youth are using internal migration to escape rural poverty.
What is incredible is the fact that the T-TPLF has been window dressing youth issues for over two decades.
In 2005, the T-TPLF established the “Ministry of Youth and Sports” (how sad to think of youth and games! A youth ministry that does not even have a website?!). Within a few years, it became the “Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture” and for the past five years or so it has been the “Ministry of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs”.
Only in a government of ignorant thugs can one justify lumping together the enormously complicated, diverse and challenging issues of youth, women and children.
The mind-boggling fact is that the T-TPLF has no youth agenda today!
The only youth agenda the T-TPLF has for the youth is its “Vagrancy Control Proclamation No. 384/2004”, which effectively criminalizes being young and cracks down on young people by defining as vagrancy activities such as “loitering or prowling at a place, at a time, or in a manner not usual for a law-abiding citizen.”
Perhaps I should restate myself. The T-TPLF not only has an agenda, but they actually have a Master Plan for Ethiopia’s Youth.
The T-TPLF Youth Master Plan is to keep the majority of Ethiopia’s youth uneducated, ignorant, benighted, unschooled and impoverished while they educate their youth and groom them as their successors so that it will be T-TPLF today, T-TPLF tomorrow and T-TPLF forever.
Their Youth Master Plan is to ensure that there will NEVER be a strong youth counter-force to challenge the T-TPLF’s new crop of youth leaders, entrepreneurs and bosses. The T-TPLF’s Master Plan is to create a disempowered and perpetually dependent non-T-TPLF youth on the generosity, goodwill, charity and benevolence of T-TPLF youth-cum-leaders. Is it not true that for any young person to get employment in the T-TPLF state, access educational opportunities, start a business and enjoy minimal levels of economic freedom that they must be T-TPLF party members?
The ultimate aim of the T-TPLF youth Master Plan is to create a nation of non-T-TPLF ignoramuses who will serve their successors.
The fact of the matter is that the T-TPLF’s Grand Master Plan is to destroy Ethiopia by destroying Ethiopia’s youth. A frustrated, embittered, impoverished, resentful, discontented, discouraged and hopeless youth population in any country is a self-destructive, pessimistic and desperate population. That is the truth about Ethiopia’s youth under the T-TPLF. But it is what it is!
So much for the future of Ethiopia under T-TPLF rule.
In January 2016, The Economist magazine asked a question that has been on my mind for years. The question hit me like a thunderbolt when I read it: “What if Ethiopians were really set free?”
The real question to me is, “What if Ethiopia’s youth were really set free?”
The Economist answered its own question: “If the government let [the Ethiopian] people breathe, they might fly.”
If Ethiopia’s young people were allowed to fly, they would be the wings of Ethiopia.
Nelson Mandela observed, “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”
That is what the T-TPLF is doing today, tearing the fabric of Ethiopian society by killing, jailing and torturing Ethiopia’s youth.
IV. Apartheid “Passbooks” and T-TPLF “identity cards”
The single most important factor in the struggle against apartheid regime in South Africa was the popular outrage against the “passbooks” Black South Africans were forced to carry and produce on order of any apartheid regime official.
The single most important tool in the South African apartheid regime’s control of the majority African population was the implementation of various “pass laws”.
In 1923, the pre-apartheid white minority regime passed the “Natives (Urban Areas) Act” instituting an internal passport system called “passes” and declaring all urban areas in South Africa as “white”. Anyone without a pass would be arrested and sent to the rural areas.
In 1945, the Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act was passed to impose “influx control” on black South Africans and established “qualification” to reside legally in white urban areas.
In 1952, the Black (Natives) Laws Amendment Act prohibited stay for a black person in an urban area for more than 72 hours and required all black people over the age of 16 to carry passes. The Natives (Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents) Act of 1952 instituted one nationwide pass law, which made it compulsory for all black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry the “pass book” at all times within white areas.
The resistance to the “Pass Law” led to the massacre of dozens of Black South Africans in Sharpeville in March 1960 and imprisonment of tens of thousands. Resistance to pass laws increased throughout the 1970s and 1980s at great cost to life for Black South Africans.
I can confidently say that very, very few people know or understand the insidious nature of the T-TPLF identification card system in Ethiopia.
Indeed, I argue that the apartheid South African pass laws were relatively harmless compared to the T-TPLF identification card or what I would call silent pass book.
The South African apartheid passbook contained minimal amounts of information on the bearer. The passbook required the bearer’s photograph, full name, place and date of birth, tribe, employment bureau, employer’s name and address, tax, homeland tax and other “particulars. (To compare apartheid “passbook” and T-TPLF identity card/silent pass book, click HERE .)
The T-TPLF identity card (silent passbook) however collects incredibly massive amounts of personal information which has NO other purpose but to facilitate total control and surveillance of each citizen.
The T-TPLF silent pass book requires information including the 1) person’s name, 2) mother’s name, 3) date and year of birth, 4) place of birth, 5) designated kilil area, 6) district (wereda), 7) kebele(sub-district), 8) gender, 9) ethnicity (be-her), 10) current residence, 11) kilil of current residence, 12) district (wereda) of current residence, 13) kebele (sub-district) of current residence, 14) house number, 15) profession, 16) employer, 17) telephone number, 15) emergency contact name, 16) contact’s district, 17) contact’s kebele, 18) contact’s house number, 19) contact’s telephone number, 20) contact’s date identity card issued, 21) authority who issued identity card, 22) valid date of card and 23) a photograph.
Why would the T-TPLF require such extraordinarily detailed information on each citizen? Simple. For no other reason but to control, monitor, regulate, restrict, manipulate, register, document, regiment, dominate, subjugate, and rule with an iron fist.
There is no reason or rhyme to collecting such detailed information on citizens unless there is an evil plan behind it all. I will defer extensive discussion of this issue for a later time. But see my February 2013 commentary, “Ethiopia: The Prototype Police State”, and March 2014 commentary , “‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’” in 2014 Ethiopiana”, among others.)
When I say the T-TPLF runs a police state, some people suggest I am exaggerating and saying things because I do not like the T-TPLF.
The fact of the matter is that there is NO country in the world that collects or requires citizens to provide such detailed information about themselves. NONE!
The T-TPLF runs a police state in Ethiopia.
The T-TPLF identity card (silent passbook) is a “hand grenade” carried by every Ethiopian whose trigger pin can be pulled by any T-TPLF authority.
Again, some may say I exaggerate when I say the T-TPLF is the apotheoses of evil, the deification of evil on earth.
As we say in the legal profession, “res ipsa loquitur” (“the thing (evidence) speaks for itself”). The silent pass book speaks for itself.
Now, the truth about the T-TPLF’s silent passbook is out what should “WE” do about it?
To be continued next week…
 I use the phrase “leaderless youth movement” to indicate the widespread use of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience by loosely organized and coordinated independent groups who broadly share the same objectives without an identifiable command and control structure).